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Blog Category: Spotlight on Commerce

Spotlight on Commerce: Ronald Lorentzen, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Import Administration, ITA

Photo of Lorentzen at his desk

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.

Guest blog post by Ronald Lorentzen, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Import Administration, International Trade Administration

As the career official responsible for the day-to-day management of Import Administration, I perform many roles: making the budgetary ends meet; acting as policy adviser plenipotentiary; being an “executive sponsor” of various projects; and serving frequently as a diplomatic counselor or empathetic ear to our organization’s staff and external stakeholders.

Import Administration’s core mission is to administer our nation’s antidumping and countervailing duty laws, which provide a remedy–typically, via a special import tariff–to help U.S. industries that are injured as a result of unfairly traded imports.  These remedies are determined through quasi-judicial investigations conducted under the close scrutiny of the courts and the World Trade Organization. While the process is sanctioned by international trade rules and receives broad support from the Congress, the outcome of any given investigation can displease the domestic industry, the foreign exporters, the foreign government(s) and–in many cases–all of the above. You have to have a thick skin to do my kind of work. But the work itself can be intellectually fascinating, impinging upon some of the most controversial trade policy issues and of make-or-break importance to the survival of many U.S. businesses and the livelihoods of many Americans.

How did I get here? I was born in northeastern Ohio and grew up in Indiana and Illinois, graduating from Bradley University in Peoria, IL, with a B.A. in French and international relations. I had no clue when I was in high school that one could specialize in such a field, but I think that my sense of being “different” led me to explore that possibility and the options that it might present. That led to a junior year of college at the Sorbonne in Paris, which in turn convinced me that I must continue in this field and find another chance at further study abroad. I was accepted by the Johns Hopkins School of International Studies M.A. program and packed my bags for a year at SAIS’s center in Bologna, Italy, with my second year bringing me to Washington–my home ever since. I can see more clearly now that my scholarly interests spoke to the calling that I had to understand and interact with people of different cultures, but the experience of living abroad was profoundly transformative in liberating me from my own, often self-imposed limitations as a gay man.

Spotlight on Commerce: Sharon Yanagi, Chief of Staff, Bureau of Industry and Security

Photo of Sharon Yanagi, Chief of Staff, Bureau of Security and Industry

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.

Guest blog post by Ms. Sharon Yanagi, Chief of Staff, Bureau of Security and Industry

For over three years, I have served as the Chief of Staff at the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), the U.S. Commerce Department agency charged with administering the nation’s dual use export control system. In that capacity, I advise the Bureau Under Secretary on a range of policy, management and operations issues. I work closely with BIS leaders on Congressional and industry outreach and education designed to build support for the Bureau’s overarching policy initiative, the Export Control Reform Initiative. It is a major update of the U.S. export control system which will enhance both our national security and our economic competitiveness.  

In 2010, I was recruited back to BIS, having served there as Congressional and Public Affairs Director during the Clinton administration. At that time, we also tried to reform the U.S. export control system, which has not been comprehensively updated since the end of the Cold War. As Congressional director, I was part of a team that spent two years and hundreds of hours working to reauthorize our legislative authority–and in 1994, we failed. It’s not often that you fail to attain a major goal and are given the chance to try again. That is why I’m very grateful for the opportunity to work toward this important and long overdue policy goal in this administration.


Spotlight on Commerce: Peggy Leung-Dombrowski, Acting Chief Learning Officer, Office of Human Resources Management

Portrait of Peggy Leung-Dombrowski

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.

Guest blog post by Ms. Peggy Leung-Dombrowski, Acting Chief Learning Officer, Office of the Secretary

I was born and raised in Hong Kong (China), also known as Pearl of the East. Fifteen years ago, I would never have dreamt of working for one of the United States Government Cabinet level agencies, serving the American people, and working side by side with the brightest professionals in the Learning and Development (L&D) field. 

My father, who was a retired language translator for the British Government in Hong Kong by day, a professor at the University of Hong Kong by night, taught me the values of integrity, working hard, and perseverance. My father’s dictum was “People may steal your money but no one can ever take knowledge away from you.” He always encouraged me to travel and see the world, which allowed me to experience life in Australia, Canada, and the United States first hand. Then, I settled down in Virginia, pursued my passion, and received my Master of Education in Instructional Technology from George Mason University, which provided me the competencies to work in the L&D arena. 

Before joining public service in 2001, I worked in the private sector as a trainer, Instructional System Designer, and Training Manager. After serving the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for  eight years, I began my career in the Department of Commerce (DOC) in 2009. At Commerce, I am the Acting Chief Learning Officer, Chair of the Department’s Chief Learning Officers Council, serving all the bureaus of the Department. My responsibilities include making recommendations on training development direction, including Leadership Development, to support our workforce; managing the implementation, development, quality assurance, and extended application of the enterprise Learning Management System; and providing Department training policies, processes and procedures guidance. Throughout my Commerce career, I have been supported by many mentors and managers, including Dr. Fred Lang, and Tyra Dent Smith for their guidance and leadership. I also serve on the Department’s Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Council and am heavily involved in the Department’s D&I learning and retention strategies.

Spotlight on Commerce: Vikrum Aiyer, Special Adviser, USPTO

Portrait of Vikrum Aiyer

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.

Guest blog post by Vikrum Aiyer, Special Adviser to the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property, USPTO

Some of the most disruptive solutions to the world's most pressing challenges are laid out in applications submitted to our office. And through the review of over half a million proposals for new products and technologies annually, I have the privilege to work alongside a team that helps protect those cutting-edge innovations in the global marketplace, with intellectual property rights.

We all know that the United States faces genuine economic competition in more sectors, from more companies, and from more places than ever before. But in order to write the next chapters of growth and remain the world’s chief global competitor, we must smartly and immediately invest in the very infrastructure that fosters American inventive potential. That’s why the agency has been hard at work to retool our nation’s patent laws from the ground up, making it easier, more cost effective, and more efficient for businesses of all stripes to protect their products and services. 

Being raised in Silicon Valley, and as the son of a physicist spearheading his own enterprise, I recognize that there is no shortage of great ideas in America, but there are barriers to getting those ideas off the ground. So the opportunity to serve as a Special Adviser to the Under Secretary hits especially close to home for me, as I help assess challenges start-ups and technologists face by spearheading our public partnerships with key stakeholders around the country. The role gives me the chance to advise the Under Secretary on how to connect inventors with the tools they need to protect their companies, while also empowering me to publicly frame and communicate how the administration’s intellectual property priorities drive export and manufacturing possibilities in America. 

Spotlight on Commerce: Dr. Kathryn D. Sullivan, Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Acting NOAA Administrator

Dr. Kathryn D. Sullivan, Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Acting NOAA Administrator

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.

Guest blog post by Dr. Kathryn D. Sullivan, Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Acting NOAA Administrator

NOAA transforms scientific data about our complex and ever-changing Earth into environmental information that touches every American, protecting their lives and livelihoods against natural hazards, informing their personal and business decisions and supporting wise management of natural resources in our coastal and marine environments. We operate the nation’s weather satellites, and our National Weather Service is the source of all your weather forecasts. Other NOAA units produce the Nation’s nautical charts, manage our marine fisheries and operate America’s underwater national parks, known as National Marine Sanctuaries. As Acting Administrator, I oversee the agency’s work to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans and coasts, to provide timely, reliable ‘environmental intelligence’ to inform sound decision-making by citizens, businesses and public officials, and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources.

I was lucky to grow up in Southern California at a time when an adventurous young girl could safely roam the open hills and valleys nearby, whetting her appetite for the grander expeditions she hoped to make someday. I was also inspired by the daring feats of America’s first astronauts and the exotic adventures of oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, which filled our TV screens and magazines regularly and reinforced just how exciting a life of exploration could be. It never bothered me that everyone I was watching was male. My brother and I were raised with the view that every person has unique talents and interests and should pursue them as they see fit, regardless of what someone else thinks is ‘right’ for girls or boys. This attitude, plus my parents’ unwavering trust and support, inoculated me against the peer pressure I encountered at school and with my neighborhood friends and helped me steer my own course.

Spotlight on Commerce: Geovette Washington, Deputy General Counsel

Geovette Washington, Deputy General Counsel

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.

Guest blog post by Geovette Washington, Deputy General Counsel

Serving as Deputy General Counsel in the Department of Commerce has been one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences in my career. The people with whom I have worked over the last three years are outstanding. The issues I have dealt with are interesting, challenging, and critical to the Department’s work. Most important, being Deputy General Counsel has presented a wonderful opportunity to fulfill my lifelong commitment to service. 

As Deputy General Counsel, my job is to provide legal advice to the various parts of this Department. However, my role, and the role of all of the attorneys within the Office of the General Counsel, goes well beyond simply providing legal advice to our clients. We work to make sure that the people of the Department do not simply get a review of the legal sufficiency of their work, but also a partner in their mission. That partnership between OGC and the rest of the Department has been a point of emphasis for me during my time at Commerce and is vital to the execution of the President’s vision for creating an America Build to Last. The creativity and dynamic engagement of OGC attorneys helps Commerce agencies execute their plans to build a 21st century America that has the tools, infrastructure, and expertise to thrive.  

Encouraging partnership between OGC and its clients is critical to fostering a ethos of service within OGC, and service–particularly of public service–is something I value highly and was a central tenant of my upbringing.  

Spotlight on Commerce: Denise Yaag, Director, Office of Executive Resources

Denise Yaag, Director, Office of Executive Resources

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.

Guest blog post by Denise Yaag, Director, Office of Executive Resources

Having been born and raised in Takoma Park, Maryland, it could perhaps seem unsurprising that I ended up working for the federal government.  In fact, I made a very deliberate choice 26 years ago to dedicate my career to serving my country and I do not regret that decision to this day. 

As Director of the Office of Executive Resources, I support the Secretary in managing executive and senior professional employment throughout the Department of Commerce. I’ve helped to ensure alignment and cascading of Departmental and organizational goals with performance goals of the executive and senior professional cadre in order to enhance organizational and individual performance, accountability, and results. One of the most enjoyable and satisfying responsibilities of my position is working with the Office of White House Liaison to coordinate bringing new political appointees on our rolls. Over the years I’ve had the pleasure and privilege to get to know some truly brilliant and accomplished individuals who have served our president and our nation, helping execute the administration’s agenda and the programs that help America compete in the global economy. 

While government service always seemed appealing, the field of human resources was not always part of the plan. I have had a lifelong interest in science. In elementary school, when given the choice of an elective course to take, I chose geology, finding myself the only girl in a classroom full of boys. In high school, I was one of only a few female students in the Chemistry Club. And at the risk of dating myself, this trend continued into college, where I was regularly one of a just a small number of women in labs. I was on track to enter what we now call a “STEM” (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) career field.

Spotlight on Commerce: Mary Saunders, Associate Director of Management Resources, National Institute of Standards and Technology

Mary Saunders, Associate Director for Management Resources, National Institute of Standards and Technology

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.

Guest blog post by Mary Saunders, Associate Director of Management Resources, National Institute of Standards and Technology

In my 26-year career at the Department of Commerce, I’ve found that the most interesting things in life generally happen at the intersections. It’s the connections between people, places, and things where true forward progress is often made.

I was born in Washington, D.C. and have lived in Northern Virginia most of my life. I guess given my beginnings, it’s not surprising that I chose to study politics, economics, and public policy. What’s more surprising is that I’ve ended up using that knowledge to support the nation’s scientific infrastructure.

Some background helps explain the links that led me to my current position as the Associate Director of Management Resources, one of three deputies to NIST Director Patrick Gallagher.

Spotlight on Commerce: Katina Rojas Joy, Deputy Director, Office of Business Liaison

Katina Rojas Joy, Deputy Director, Office of Business Liaison

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.

Guest blog post by Katina Rojas Joy, Deputy Director, Office of Business Liaison

As Deputy Director in the Office of Business Liaison, my primary goal is to execute the Secretary's international trade missions. Our office executed an infrastructure trade mission to New Dehli, India last year, and we are currently planning a transportation and infrastructure trade mission to Colombia, Brazil, and Panama. The President wants to double U.S. exports by the end of 2014, and I am proud to play in role in meeting the President’s established export goal. During trade mission promotion and planning, much of my time is spent interfacing with US companies, small and medium sized businesses, U.S. embassies, and trade associations.  I have also served on several White House interagency and Commerce policy initiatives:  Summer Jobs +, Doing Business in Africa, the Affordable Care Act, Hurricane Sandy response and recovery and the expansion of Commerce’s patent and trademark field offices. These new field offices will speed up the patent process and help American businesses innovate, grow, and create jobs.

I grew up in the Bronx and Puerto Rico. My grandmother migrated to New York City in the 1950’s and found work in the garment industry, which at the time, along with manufacturing, was a booming industry in NYC. My mom, was born in Puerto Rico and raised my brother and I on her own and worked in clerical jobs at Local 1199 SEIU and Bronx Lebanon Hospital until she retired last October.

Spotlight on Commerce: Antwaun Griffin, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Domestic Operations

Antwaun Griffin, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Domestic Operations, International Trade Administration

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.

Guest blog post by Antwaun Griffin, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Domestic Operations

As the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Domestic Operations within the International Trade Administration's (ITA) U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service, I help oversee all aspects of the Department of Commerce's trade promotion and export assistance services. This includes the management of 109 U.S. Export Assistance Centers (USEAC’s) around the country as well as oversight of the government’s efforts to recruit U.S.-based exhibitors and foreign buyers to domestic and international trade shows. In addition, my office also oversees the planning and execution of most government-led trade missions.

Often times this work involves critical analysis of our internal business operations to ensure that they are aligned with staff needs and those of our various clients—small businesses, industry associations, state and local governments and other federal agencies involved in trade promotion. Other times, it involves traveling to meet with business owners and groups to encourage them to export—thus creating or retaining more jobs here in the United States.